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New Boston College AD Blake James Interviews with WEEI, Comments on BC’s NIL Strategy

BC struggles to keep up in a money-driven athletics landscape

New Director of Athletics for Boston College Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

On Sunday morning, new Boston College AD Blake James had an interview with WEEI Providence where he covered a variety of topics, including the changing landscape of college athletics and how BC will be addressing name, image, and likeness (NIL) moving forward. Here is his answer about NIL in full:

How do you approach [NIL] and balance that in making sure NIL is still competitive with everybody else in your conference and also still being able to go to your top donors and say we need this for our facilities, this for charter flights [...] how do you balance that moving forward with today’s changing landscape with NIL?

“Well I think each school has to take their own approach. And I think, my belief is that we as an institution shouldn't be involved in that if there’s opportunities for young people to capitalize on their name image and likeness. I recognize that’s where we’ve gone in college athletics and that’s where it’s going to be in the future. And that goes back to my previous comments on the need for some type of federal set-up because from my perspective I don’t think it’s something that we should be talking about, the donors needing to give to these different types of things. To me, we should be talking about legitimate name image and likeness. You take someone like Zion Williamson. When Zion went to Duke, he could’ve signed and made money regardless of where he went. I think he strengthened his brand by going to Duke, but it’s not a situation where he would’ve had problems signing endorsement deals whether he had gone to Boston College, Providence, Miami, Maine, anywhere that he went. I think that he’d have been able to do that. And that’s where I’d like to see the rules ultimately go, but right now we’re in this period where there isn’t any real set standard. Everyone’s kind of playing by their own set of rules and I think it’s opened up the door to what you’re talking about where you have coaches around the country talking about “We need X amount of dollars from our supporters to be competitive” and that’s kind of a counter to what name image and likeness is really all about.

There are some good points here, but also some troubling aspects of his answer.

James makes an excellent assessment on the state of NIL right now and its potential to be abused. NIL was developed with the intention of allowing talented and popular student-athletes to make an earned profit on their hard work through endorsement deals and other marketing opportunities, but it’s quickly devolved into a recruiting tool abused by the richest boosters. Schools have developed a strategy in which boosters are pouring money into NIL funds to be used to recruit kids to come and play for the school, essentially creating a bidding war for recruits. Like how University of Texas boosters launched a $10M collective to fund UT athletes. It’s a system with few regulations and allows for a lot of questionable money exchanges, and James is right that there needs to be a firmer framework nationwide that restricts this sort of pay-for-attendance. “Legitimate” NIL deals, as James put it, are subservient to the NIL deals surrounding recruiting battles.

What’s troubling as a Boston College fan is the seeming lack of desire to make any sort of splash in the landscape as it stands today like so many other schools are doing. James says that BC as an institution “shouldn’t be involved” in asking “donors needing to give to these different types of things.” His view is that the student-athletes should pursue “opportunities for young people to capitalize on their name image and likeness,” but that Boston College won’t be asking its boosters to pay directly for these sorts of sponsorships to influence recruiting. It’s a very principled way to handle NIL, but this sort of approach will absolutely leave Boston College one step behind other schools. BC athletes will be able to pursue partnerships with local brands, but Boston College as an institution won’t be asking its richest donors to expand those opportunities for incoming student-athletes. This approach adds to the already long list of institutional disadvantages BC faces within college athletics.

The radio spot also covered James’s thoughts on the football program’s direction under Jeff Hafley, the importance of the new Hoag basketball pavilion, Earl Grant’s promising future with the BC men’s basketball program, how to run a top-tier football program, why throwing around more money isn’t always the answer, and improving the gameday fan experience.

You can listen to the full interview here: